Indigenous Australians’ ability to access superannuation has been improved following new guidance from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
“Currently, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have difficulty accessing their superannuation benefits due to the rigid structure of identification requirements – many of which can be difficult to access,” said Eva Scheerlinck, executive manager at the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST).
Scheerlinck added the guidance would encourage super funds to look at more flexible approaches to identification requirements – including accepting alternative forms of identification where possible.
“Promoting flexibility is an important step in creating a more inclusive superannuation system that caters to all members,” she said.
The First Nations Foundation, which works to improve financial inclusion among Indigenous Australians, hailed this move as a common sense way to create financial inclusion for Australia’s first peoples.
“By opening access points and creating flexible red tape, all financial institutions can learn from this example and embed it into their systems,” said Amanda Young, chief executive of First Nation Foundation.
It is estimated 43 per cent of all Indigenous Australians are fully or severely financially excluded, whether in cities, towns or remote Australia, with one of the major issues being a lack of identification documents.
AUSTRAC’s chief executive, Paul Jevtovic, said the guidance will help financial businesses to more readily identify some of their most disadvantaged, low-risk customers and achieve higher levels of financial inclusion.
Specifically AUSTRAC recommends that, “where appropriate, reporting entities consider adopting a flexible approach to the identification and verification of persons of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage, while remaining mindful of social and cultural sensitivities.
“This may include using ‘reliable and independent’ means of alternative identification for customers of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage.”
Alternative identification could include a photographic reference, a letter of reference or the completion of form issued by the reporting entity.
Scheerlinck added the guidance was developed in consultation with the financial services sector and other Australian Government agencies.
“While there are still a number challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in regards to superannuation and retirement outcomes, this work is evidence that with a collaborative approach between Government, industry and those experiencing difficulties with accessing their superannuation, some of barriers around super and identification can be removed,” Scheerlinck said.